Four schools have issued a joint statement criticising a proposal to build a new school on a playing field in Hove.
Brighton, Hove and Sussex VI Form College (BHASVIC), Cardinal Newman Catholic School, Stanford Infant School and Stanford Junior School said that they were not consulted about the plan.
The King’s School is a Church of England secondary school which is due to open in September.
It will open initially in High Street, Portslade, sharing the Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA) sixth form site temporarily. The King’s School, a free school, has been offered use of the premises for three years.
The joint statement by the four Brighton and Hove schools yesterday (Tuesday 7 May) said: “The announcement from the Department for Education on (Thursday) 18 April 2013 that they had identified the BHASVIC field as the ‘most suitable deliverable site’ for the new 1,000-student King’s free school plus a three-form entry primary school for a further 630 children came as a total shock to us all.
“We found it hard to understand how the feasibility of a proposal of this scale and significance could possibly have been properly evaluated without first having consulted with us and the other users of the field to establish the extent of current use of the playing fields.
“During the school day the fields are in constant use by our institutions, in particular Cardinal Newman Catholic School, who rely on substantial daily use of the playing fields for curriculum PE and after school sports activities.
“We fully understand the demographic pressures leading to the need for further secondary provision in the city.
“We accept that more primary and secondary places are needed in Hove and Portslade and that this is the rationale for the establishment of the King’s free school.
“But building over a school playing field is not the answer.
“Not only would it severely impair our institutions’ provision for sports. It would substantially extinguish a school playing field at a time when rightly the public health emphasis on sports and exercise points towards the need for more rather than fewer amenities of this kind.
“It would permanently remove a vital green space in the heart of a densely populated city.
“It would also create great congestion around an area which already has over 4,000 students coming and going each day.
“We urge the department and the local authority to re-examine other viable options for locating the free school, not least the site in Portslade where the new free school will be temporarily sited.
“There must be a better solution than this and we are very willing to work constructively with all who are concerned to find it.”
Campaigners living near BHASVIC, in Dyke Road, Hove, and Cardinal Newman, in The Upper Drive, Hove, are applying to gain “village green” status for the field.
They were spurred into action after Cardinal Newman proposed fencing the site which has long been used as for recreation by people in the area.
A previous attempt to build a school on the site was rejected by an independent planning inspector as unsuitable.
And an earlier proposal to sell the playing field for housing by East Sussex County Council was dropped after overwhelming local opposition.